Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Trip of a Lifetime Part 4: With a Paddle

When we last left her Patty a had just gotten in the raft.  Since she wrote the post below, obviously she survived.  Read on to find out how….

There are times, when a picture is worth a thousand words.

“What does one wear rafting (apart from a terror-stricken expression on one’s face)?”   I asked Michael S. Kaye, president of Costa Rica Expeditions.  It was my way of reminding him of my river phobia.

“Roberto [Miranda, the Costa Rican filmmaker documenting The Trip of a Lifetime] will be taping it.” He responded.  “Please wear designer rafting togs and a expression of absolute ecstasy on your face.”  That’s Michael for you – lighthearted, direct, confident.  If I wanted an easy out, I wasn’t going to get one here.

It’s Day 1 of our trip.  Getting into the rafts, Michael introduces me to our guide, Siau, saying “Patty almost died in a river.  Can you tell her how long you’ve been leading trips to reassure her?”  Siau demurs. “Not until I get her through this one alive.”

He tightens my life vest while I take stock of my assets.

1- One guide, credentials unknown, behind me.

2- Michael in front of me.  He’s the president of the company, surely they wouldn’t want HIS raft to capsize.

3- Yolanda, who looked like she was praying during the safety talk, across from me.

4) Max, a fellow Trip of a Lifetime participant.  Don’t know much about Max.  But he’s tall, very tall.  Arm span will be a good thing if I need to be   fished out of the water.  I’m going to be nice to Max.

5- Helmet
6- Paddle
7- Life vest
8- Rescue boat, Eduardo in a kayak

Not bad, a lot more than I had the last time I was on a river. Whoa!  What’s happening?  We push off, the river takes us, no going back.  Let’s see those pictures:

Here’s Roberto filming.  Which will it be, abject terror or absolute ecstasy?

Ecstasy! That was before we collided with the other raft.

Terror!  Thankfully, I didn’t fall out.  If I had, Eduardo was ahead of us:

And herein lies the difference between being up the creek without a paddle, ie terrified and endangered (see, and with a paddle:  this time, I wasn’t alone.

This time, it was pretty simple.  Do what the guy in front of me does, and what the guy behind me says.  When I got rattled, Yolanda would yell “you ok?” or Max would smile, or Sciau would splash water yelling “Piranha!” and I would snap back to the present.

There were moments, when I could actually see the beauty around me – butterflies of all colors, Eduardo’s red rescue kayak swirling, slicing the water like a matador’s cape ahead of us.

I felt protected by these new acquaintances.  We worked together, we checked on each other, and the truth is, not only did they have my back, I had theirs.  They got in a raft with me knowing I could have freaked out, and I did not want to let them down so I didn’t.

I faced moments like this:

shrieking like a girl, yes, but without fainting or crying.  I came up paddling, whooping for joy.

How good does that feel?  The picture says it all:

P.S.  Turns out Sciau has been river guiding for almost 20 years, and coached the Costa Rica women’s national rafting team.  I was on the Air Force One of river rafts!  Find out more about Siau and Eduardo here:

Siau and Patty


Curious about where Patty goes next… Find out in her next post.

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1 Comment

  • At December 08, 2010
    8:49:39 am
    Chris Parrott said:

    So Michael, where do you get these clients who write so evocatively and honestly about (river) trips. Patty sounds like a star: almost drowns in icy water and still comes back for more. If I weren’t already happily spoken for, I’d be considering offering her my hand in marriage.

    I recommend she takes up cycling. That would clinch it.